From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

New Government Requirements Target Employees with Disabilities

Gene Kay, MS CPE

Does your company have more than $10,000 in contracts or subcontracts with the USA Federal government, or an agency thereof? Most medium or large companies do, which makes them subject to new affirmative action regulations targeting employees with disabilities.

Most health and safety professionals are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that became law in 1990 and which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.

However, you may be less familiar with an earlier law known as the Rehabilitation Act, which pre-dates the ADA by 17 years. The Rehabilitation Act can be credited with prompting federally funded facilities such as airports, college campuses, and public libraries to become more universally accessible for individuals with disabilities. The new Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, which became effective on March 24, 2014, goes further by requiring affirmative action and prohibits employment discrimination by Federally funded contractors and subcontractors.

Are You in Compliance?

Do you …

  • have an affirmative action plan for employees with disabilities?
  • have a process to accommodate employees with disabilities?

Are you …

  • on-track with the goal of staffing 7% employees with disabilities?
  • inviting job candidates and employees to “self identify” as a person with a disability?

If you answered no to any of these questions, you’re probably not in compliance.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies, in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in Federal employment, and in the employment practices of Federal contractors.

Requiring an Affirmative Action Plan means that you must have policies, and demonstrate actions favoring employment for individuals with disabilities. The new section of the law also sets a 7% “utilization goal”, meaning that within each job group of your organization, federal contractors and agencies and organizations receiving federal funds, should strive to have 7% of their employees identified as individuals with disabilities.

The law asks employers to invite existing employees and job candidates to self-identify as an individual with a disability. The law further requires you to make reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with a disability.

To learn more about these requirements and how they may affect your organization, visit

For more information on the Americans with Disabilities Act, visit